New York investigating possible monkeypox case - but how much of a threat is it?

New York investigating possible monkeypox case – but how much of a threat is it?

This past week has been a busy one for New York health officials, as coronavirus subvariants have pushed New York City once again into experiencing high risk levels of COVID-19 transmission, influenza has crept back and a lesser known (albeit old) health concern has emerged – monkeypox.

On Friday, the New York state Department of Health released information on two possible cases of monkeypox that were being investigated in New York City – this after the U.S. saw its first confirmed case in a Massachusetts resident Wednesday.

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Public Health Lab ruled out monkeypox in one case after specimen testing, while the other was positive for orthopoxvirus, the family of viruses to which monkeypox belongs. The state is awaiting official confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is contact tracing for the case.

Monkeypox is similar to smallpox in that it causes lesions all over the body and can lead to serious illness; 1 in 10 people who have contracted it in Africa have died, according to the CDC.

This particular pox virus was first discovered in the late 1950s in Africa, and was named for the lab monkeys it appears the virus originated from. The first human case was found in 1970.

The first time monkeypox was reported outside of Africa was in 2003, when there 47 confirmed and probable cases in the U.S. after patients had contact with pet prairie dogs; the prairie dogs appeared to have contracted the virus by being housed near imported small mammals from Ghana.

Monkeypox has since been found in the U.S.; there were two cases last year, but both patients had recently traveled from Nigeria. State health officials said people are often exposed to monkeypox directly through bites or scratches from rodents and small mammals, preparing wild game, or having contact with an infected animal or possibly animal products. “Based on previous outbreaks, the virus typically does not spread easily between people,” the state Health Department said.

But in the Massachusetts case this past week, the person traveled from Canada. Also, the CDC said it is tracking multiple clusters of monkeypox that have been reported in early- to mid-May in several countries that don’t normally report monkeypox, including in Europe.

So is monkeypox something to worry about?

“Based on the limited information available at this time, the risk to the general public appears low,” the state Health Department said Friday.

Monkeypox is considered a rare virus, and while it can be spread through respiratory droplets, contracting it demands very close contact with an infected person for an extended period of time – as opposed to the more casual way many viruses – including coronavirus – spread. It can be transmitted through close skin-to-skin contact with an infected person as well – increasing the likelihood it is not casually spread.

Still, the CDC is urging health care providers in the U.S. to be alert for patients who have rash illnesses consistent with monkeypox, regardless of whether they have traveled. New Yorkers who experience flu-like illness with swelling of the lymph nodes
and rashes on the face and body should contact their health care provider, state health officials say –  particularly if they have been in close contact with someone who is experiencing similar symptoms or has traveled.

“Reports of suspected cases of monkeypox in the United States and elsewhere are concerning,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in a statement. “While a possible case in New York State awaits confirmatory testing by our local and federal partners, the department has alerted health care providers in New York State so that they can consider this unusual diagnosis if their patients present with symptoms.”

This past week the state Department of Health also put out an alert about influenza virus once again spreading. While cases increased 25 percent the first week of May, this week’s data release ending May 14 showed a slight drop down again.

The flu was almost non-existent in New York in the 2020-2021 season as coronavirus protocols limited spread. Influenza ticked up in December, but after declining started coming back in mid-February – around the time mask mandates were lifted in New York. The state Department of Health issued an advisory Wednesday to public and private schools “to remind administrators to contact their local health department if they observe increases in school absences resulting from influenza-like illness (fever with cough or sore throat) or confirmed influenza outbreaks.”

But what do coronavirus, influenza and monkeypox have in common? All of the state’s statements on the health threats this past week noted one thing – indoor masking could limits all of the viruses.

“Masks can protect against monkeypox, as well as other viruses circulating in New York City, such as COVID-19,” the city health department said in a statement Friday. “The department continues to recommend masks in public indoor settings.”


#York #investigating #monkeypox #case #threat

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *